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Desktop Linux goes retail
Mar. 10, 2008

Blog -- Desktop Linux systems have been available from vendors both small -- such as NorhTec -- and large -- such as Dell -- for some time now. But, until recently, users who feel more comfortable buying from a retailer have had few choices other than some low-end systems from Wal-Mart. Things are changing.

First, in January 2008, Sears got into the low-priced Linux desktop act. Sears is now selling Freespire 2.0-based minitower PCs via its online store. Now Best Buy, the leading U.S. electronics retailer, has gotten into the act.

Beginning at the end of February, Best Buy began selling the latest-model Asus Eee laptop.

This inexpensive laptop runs Xandros Linux. It comes with a 900MHz Intel Celeron M processor and 512MB of DDR2 (double data rate 2) memory. It also has a 7-inch 800 by 480 pixel screen, a 4GB solid state drive and a built-in Web cam. Weighing in at about 2 pounds, the Eee PC sells for $399.99.

Best Buy isn't the only retailer getting into the Linux act. is now selling the Asus Eee laptop as well. What's more, if you look at Amazon's list of best sellers in computers and PC hardware, you'll find that seven of the top 25 best-selling items are Asus laptops, topping out at number five with the "Galaxy Black" model.

Above the top-selling Asus model, you'll only find Macs. In addition, Amazon is also selling Nokia's Linux-powered Portable Internet Tablets, the N800 and the N810, which are also on Amazon's best-selling list. Altogether, nine Linux desktop devices appear on Amazon's list, and only two Windows Vista-powered laptops.

It's not all good news for the Linux desktop in retail though. Wal-Mart told the Associated Press on March 10 that it's decided not to restock its in-store gOS Linux-powered Everex Green gPC TC2502. "This really wasn't what our customers were looking for," Wal-Mart spokesperson Melissa O'Brien said, according to the AP story.

Wal-Mart will, however, according to Everex, sell its new gPC2 for $199 without a monitor and its gOS-powered UMPC (Ultra Mobile PC), the Everex CloudBook, for $399, through Wal-Mart's online store. At this time, the gPC2 was already available and the CloudBook just became available on March 10.

While Wal-Mart's in-store customers may not be looking for Linux-powered systems, it's clear that online retail customers are another story. It's also evident that inexpensive, low-end systems are what seem to be grabbing consumers' attention. Finally, as Amazon's rankings show, desktop Linux has become, almost without anyone noticing it, a mainstream desktop operating system. Indeed, desktop Linux, and Mac OS-based systems, appears to be outselling Vista by a considerable margin.

-- Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

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